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Picture Framing Materials Guide For Artwork

Updated on December 10, 2014

Informational Guide About Materials and Design.

This lens is not so much a how to (as in this is how you cut a mat) as it is an informational guide about the importance of quality framing and some information about framing materials such as glazing (glass) and matboard. It is geared toward the artist who is looking to frame and sell their work. But it is also good for anybody interested in the proper framing materials to be used for artwork..

The first half of the lens I will discuss the importance of quality framing And the later half will deal with the kinds matting and glazing and how they stack up conservation wise.

For more information on framing please visit my How To Frame Oil Pastels lens.

copyright protected by copyscape
copyright protected by copyscape

All copyrights are retained by the artist,

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.

The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either

in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.

frame samples
frame samples

Use The Best Quality Framing Materials You Can Afford

The Importance Of Quality Picture Framing

I want to start by saying I use only archival and acid free materials when framing my original artwork. You should consider doing this for 2 reasons.

1.Why should a buyer be willing to invest money in your art if you aren't? I can't tell you how many times I have seen artists with cheapo framing of garage sale quality, that have their work priced like they think it is something special. If someone is art savvy enough to be willing to shell out big money for your artwork, poor framing may turn them off to buying. Framing quality is a reflection of your professionalism.

In a similar vein, be aware of and replace damaged frames. I do many art fairs every year and the packing and unpacking is really hard on the artwork. I put extra effort in protecting the artwork for traveling, by wrapping each painting in foam and slipping into it's own box. But if a frame gets beat up, I replace it.

2.Protection of artwork. There are several types of matboard (and glass) out there with various conservation properties. (These will be discussed in depth in part 2.) The framing should provide adequate protection of artwork, not assist in its destruction.

Avoid Too Much Extravagance When Picture Framing

The Focue Should Be On The Art, Not The Picture Framing

Proper picture framing provides a field in which to view the artwork without distracted. If the framing is too fancy with loads of specialty cuts, patterned mat board or exotic or stylistically inappropriate framing, the viewer may look more at the framing than at the work. However, good framing when done properly, can elevate a mediocre piece of art.

I will occasionally dress up my prints with specialty cuts (fancy cut outs or v-grooves) but I almost never put them on original work. I do use specialty mat boards (like suedes or silks) on originals quite often, but I avoid harsh patterns that might distract.

A good rule of thumb, if you are spending your time admiring the clever frame job, then its too much.

Always Frame To Enhance The Artwork

The Importance Of Matching Style Of Artwork To The Style Of The Picture Framing Materials used

Choose framing that is stylistically similar to the artwork you are producing. For instance don't put a contemporary square matte black frame on a landscape oil painting.

I think the main difference between how interior decorators choose framing and how artists choose framing is interior designers frame to current trends. They need universally popular art to work easily in many homes.

Artists however, usually don't know who will be purchasing their latest creation. So unless you can foretell the future about decorating trends, you should choose framing to complement the work, not the current color palette of home décor (unless you get lucky enough that current trends also complement the work.)

Be Aware Of Current Picture framing and Interior Decorating Trends

3 different ways to trend watch.

Umm, I know this sounds like I have just contradicted myself, but bear with me. Being informed of what is popular can only assist you when framing your work for resale. The best way to stay on top of trends is by getting trade magazines like Décor, Art Business News, or Art World News (to name a few.) You can also visit interior design or furniture stores

The nice thing about trade magazines is the subscription is often free to those in the business. Besides following trends they also provide information about the business side of art and often the framing side as well.


Art Business News

Art World News

And one other option for trend watching is to visit the matboard websites listed (and linked) in the Matboard Materials section of this lens. They often has trend and color forecasts for the future.

Picture Framing Layers

A Cutaway Cross Section Of Picture framing Layers

Here is a cross section view of the matting and glazing you'd use for a museum mount. In this instance I used a black foamcore spacer to help differentiate it from the surrounding boards.

The layers for conservation framing from the top down are:

glazing (conservation clear)

top mat (C1607 Brite White)

Acid Free Black core foam core used as a spacer for depth

bottom mat (1607 Brite White)


barrier board (2 ply 100% cotton rag board)

AF foam core backing board

Minimally (for non conservation framing) you need




foamcore board

Even when not conservation framing never use cardboard as your backer board. The acids will migrate into the artwork quickly and if you're going to the trouble of framing, I imagine you want to display it at least for a little while.

frame samples
frame samples

Reframe A Painting That Doesn't Sell

Getting The Picture Framing Right Will Sell The Art

If you have a painting that just isn't selling you should first evaluate if the artwork is connecting with people. Does the painting in general evoke a positive response from people? Do you have people on the fence about purchasing it, but they just don't commit?

If not, (however painful this may be to hear) it may be your artwork just isn't connecting with people. This could be for many reasons other than quality. Like your genre is wrong for your location (are you doing seascapes in South Dakota?) Or perhaps a particular trend has ended. For example I do quite a bit of exotic wildlife, like big cats and zebras and such. We just passed through a hot faze where everyone had a safari room. (See, I told you there was a reason to know what current trends are.) My African wildlife went like hot cakes. That decorating trend has ended. And while I still paint exotics (I painted them before the trend, and will continue to do so.) I can expect the interest in this work to wane, despite the fact that I do them as well or better than before.

But if the painting is getting good attention and still not selling, perhaps you should consider reframing it. (I can hear the frustrated groans already. What! I already spent $$$ framing it the first time and now you want me to do it again!)

Again, I will site myself as an example. I do around 15-18 art events each year. The biggest benefit of doing these other than the $$$, is the instant feedback. I can see what thousands of people think of my work (this is not for the faint of heart) in a single day. So if I have a painting that is priced in range with my other work and it appears people respond well to it, or I am selling loads of prints of it, and yet the painting remains unsold. I reframe it and most often raise the price. (Yes, you read that right.) Not only does raising the price recoup your framing cost, but I think much like poor framing can turn off buyers, so can a painting priced too low.

Whenever I have reframed a painting, (and I have done so at least 4 times in the past 3 years.) The painting usually sells within 6 months. Often the very next time I am out. Every painting that I have reframed has sold since doing so.


Various types and qualities of mat board used in picture framing

The purpose of mat board is to provide a decorative enhancement, as well as an airspace between the glass and the artwork. The airspace is important to retard mold growth.

Mat board comes in a variety of types, serving different functions. Mat board can be strictly decorative but eventually damage the artwork: be decorative and not damage the artwork: to actually absorb free radicals and help to preserve the artwork.

There are many companies that make mat board. Two of the more common companies (and the ones I carry) are Crescent and Bainbridge. Visit them for more complete information on the products they make.

Non-conservation grade is as it sounds. It leaves the factory ph-neutral but almost immediately begins to decay. Acids and off-gasing from this type of matting will cause yellowing in both the matting as well as whatever it is framed with. I have not used this type of mat board in my gallery for over 10 years. Not only for the above reasons, but also because it fades and yellows quite quickly. The way I see it, if you are spending money to frame it, you want it to look the same for a few years at least.

White Core Mat These have (and maintain) the very white core of the acid free archival matting, but are neither acid free nor archival. Not to be used on anything of value. Again not a mat board type I use.

Alpha Cellulose Made from wood pulp and has additives which make it acid free. These boards remain archival and can be used to frame anything.

100% Cotton Rag Made from cotton pulp. Is the highest level of quality for Museum Mounting of original work and fine art photography.

Picture Framing Glazings (Glass)

Various types and qualities of glazing materials used in picture framing

Glazing is just a fancy word for glass. But it also includes plexi's and acrylics. Any work on paper should be placed under glass to protect it from the elements, damage and insects.

All of the glass types here are based on Tru Vue glass company, which is the brand that I and most frame shops carry. There are other types as well as acrylic options but these are the basic choices when it comes to framing your artwork.

Regular Clear blocks 47% UV (Ultra Violet) light. UV light is the main cause for fading and deterioration of artwork.

Regular Non-glare has a frosted etching on one side to cut down on glare but still only blocks 47% UV light. You should be aware that non-glare glazings should not be used in cases where more than 2 mats are used or any kind of deeper spacing occurs between the artwork and glass since it tends to get foggier (or smokey looking) the deep the spacing.

Conservation Clear has a coating on one side which blocks up to 97% UV light. Conservation Reflection Control (Non-glare) is the same as above. It has the frosted etching to cut down on glare but blocks the same amount of UV as Conservation Clear. Again should not be used in deeper air space situations.

AR Glass Reflection-Free offers the clear (unfrosted) glare-free viewing of Museum Glass. It blocks 78% UV light.

Museum Glass Is the best of all worlds. It is so clear and has virtually no glare that it looks like there is no glass at all. This is the most expensive option, but worth the money if you can afford it. It blocks 98% UV light.

Acrylite I've included this acrylic glazing because it comes in both the regular and conservation clear. In general I avoid plexi's because they scratch easily and often maintain a static charge which depending on the media (i.e. pastels) may pull color from the surface.

That being said many artists need to ship their work and often gallery shows require some sort of plexi to be used. Also when I have a larger painting that needs to be shipped under glass this is the option I use.

Acylite Conservation Clear filters out 98% UV light. It also has a version that is both conservation and scratch resistant.

About The Author Of Picture Framing Materals Guide

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery

My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I have been in the art and framing industry for over 20 years. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.

I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves

I maintain a blog called Fur In The Paint, as well as write a regular column for the equestrian magazine Apples 'N Oats about painting horses.

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.


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